Blog Essay Class 12

Like Krotz, I perceive mediatization as something that society has been moving towards and even unconsciously striving for since the very beginning.  As technology advances we seem to always find a way to use it as a means for acquiring more knowledge to help us shape our perceived reality.  Before we had a medium other than face-to-face communication people were only concerned with feeding themselves, finding a safe place to sleep, and procreation, and storytelling was the only way that people developed any sense of what life was like outside of the cave.  So it was only through each other that we learned about our similarities and differences as a species.  Mediatization is tied to our insatiable curiosity about the world we live in, and ever since we started inventing we’ve been trying to create more and more efficient ways of finding out what exists beyond what we can see and comprehend in our immediate environment.

I like Hernes’ phrase “media-twisted society.” Once there was just person-to-person socializing.  Then we got a hold of written language and suddenly there was a means to go further for knowledge as well as a means to control one another.  Thus, society became forever changed by these new forms of communication and knowledge dissemination.  Which brings us to today, where we exist in a world “of information abundance which has rendered attention a strategic resource.”  We’ve recently even figured out a way to mediatize our personal lives by putting our every thought and movement online via Facebook and Twitter.  For some, it seems that using media to inform their reality is not enough.  Instead, they want to inject themselves into the mediasphere so that reality will perceive them as well.  This is how we’ve arrived at a state where competing realities are showing us all how little we actually know and creating conflict between those who want to find a “truth” and those that want only to confirm that they’ve been right all along.

Now we’ve developed such advanced means for creating our realities that we’re in a time of flux where the old power structure is breaking down and everyone has the power to seek information from almost anywhere without being constrained by which messages the elites want us to use.  As Picard points out, no longer are content production companies the top dogs.  Instead, it is the companies that give us access to the abundant forms of electronic media like Apple, Microsoft, or Verizon that are in the lead, and we the consumers are able to look for ourselves and even shout our own messages out to others.  However, the majority of us do not employ this power to become informed, activated societal agents.  Most of us would rather use it to entertain away our problems and the problems plaguing society.

We’ve vastly improved our capabilities “for gathering and disseminating news and information [as well as] facilitating public discussion” (Picard, pg. 378), but it seems to me that, in America especially, there is an ever growing apathy for democratic participation or unification around social causes.  How is it that in an environment with access to infinite amounts of information about almost anything from almost anywhere, we, in America at least, have become so self-centered?  I think that mediatization has overwhelmed us to such a degree that we just don’t have the attention to spare for the things that have the potential to upset us.  Additionally, I see so many young people communicating primarily via text and other technologically mediated ways that it makes me wonder if they are missing out on learning how to effectively communicate person to person.  This could significantly change the face of societies around the world and not for the better.

DQ:  Do you see mediatization as a problem for future generations?  Is it possible that communication will become so mediated that people will lose the ability to communicate effectively face-to-face?

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Analyze This Class 11

I think that we could potentially equate 18th century coffee shop public spheres with virtual public spheres made possible by online discussion platforms, however, this is only possible for online forums which are set up specifically for discussions of certain topics.  I don’t believe that comments sections on news sites count as public spheres because I don’t believe that online consumers pay that much attention to the comments below articles they read.  I think that individuals who are active participants in media and seek out places to discuss news and politics are able to find and form discourse communities that have strong ties where actual debate takes place.  The pitfalls of online spheres are anonymity and choice. These lead people to say things and become combative in a way that they would not do in a face to face discussion like in a coffee shop, and it allows them to only choose platforms where their views will be confirmed.

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Blog Essay Class 11

Josephi’s Article, Journalism in the Global Age, is just the second article that we’ve read this semester that calls for more comparative analyses of media systems and theories worldwide.  Researchers must be seeing the same trends that we’re all noticing about how the internet and Web 2.0 technologies have taken media beyond borders and allowed for global discussions to take place, which leaves me somewhat shocked that comparative analysis has not been a more common approach since it was first it was introduced in the 90s.  This article helped me take a step back from the media system that I exist in, which I interpret to be superior than others just based on portrayals of other systems as being controlled by governments, religious groups, or other powerful institutions.  As I read Josephi’s thoughts on global media relations, I found myself coming to grips with the fact that our system is just as controlled as others around the world, but we hold to the idea that, because our press is “free,” it is the therefore the best.  The more I see the flaws in our commercial-based media system, the more nervous I get about the creeping influence of western media and consumerism on developing media systems especially in light of increasing access to the internet.  I agree completely with Hallin and Mancini’s assertion that journalism, at least in the west, is no longer meant to foster social awareness, but is instead meant to entertain and attain an audience that can be sold to advertisers.  As media outlets continue to develop methods to monetize web-based media, a western-style corporate control of media could spread further and faster leading to worldwide degradation of information, which could adversely affect media systems in developing nations.

In the video The Internet, Globalization and the Media Future, Tom Patterson describes the internet’s potential for changing the nature of information.  The Web gives us increased access to media from around the world that has been produced in different systems by diverse types of sources.  Patterson says that the multitude of perspectives could lead to exposure to competing realities.  With this comes the potential for an increased global “commonality,” but there is also an underlying danger that “dominant cultures” will determine media values.  We are most certainly a dominant culture, and based on what I perceive to be the state of our media system, I’m not certain that I want the U.S. being the primary source for setting global media values.  Especially considering the personalized nature of web-based media consumption, I feel that our media values would just give interest groups, advertisers, and corporations more power to influence individuals on a global scale.

The idea of a global set of media ethics is all at once confusing, appealing, and terrifying.  I think we in the west need to be careful of making an assumption about how our media ethics could be applied in other cultures and other media systems.  The altruist in all of us wants to believe that our version of proper media would achieve harmony between nations by bridging cultural gaps through a universal style of communication, but I fear that less benevolent forces would seek to manipulate developing media systems for profit and personal gain.  The complexity of the burgeoning global media environment calls for a lot more research, discussion, and cooperation between media professionals around the globe.

 

DQ:  Do you see a unification of global communication values occurring in our lifetime? Would this be a good thing for most countries, or would it cause adverse effects in some cultures?

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Analyze this Class 10

As CEO of Google, I would attempt to operate normally even if a government asked me to obey its propaganda and censorship practices.  As the top search engine in the world, Google represents nothing if not free access to information.  If I were in charge and I came up against an organization that was trying to limit people’s access, I would have no problem lying to the oppressive regime and providing the public with a reliable portal to the internet for as long as I could before the oppressors figured out what I was doing.  Then, I would simply accept it as standard operating procedure when the government blocked Google from their limited Web.   I figure that offering a public access to truth for even a short amount of time could be enough to show what their government is doing and inspire action and perhaps change enacted by the people.

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Blog Essay Class 10

As the Web 2.0 and social media revolution continue to cause a global transition to a new set of media regimes around the world, it is interesting to examine how China is responding.  The Chinese Government has always exercised a larger degree of control over the media than most western countries in that it once saw mass media as “instruments of class struggle” (Zhao, pg. 256) that needed to be suppressed and later as a means of “promoting economic development and engendering citizenship” (Zhao, pg. 257).  Control of the media has allowed the Chinese Government to guide the ideology of the country and maintain certain socialist characteristics while also allowing their nation to become a global economic power by accepting a number of capitalistic facets into their society, which has become more market oriented in recent years.

During the past few decades China has cultivated the largest working class in the world, which has allowed their economy to thrive off of an unprecedented ability to produce and export goods.  This slight shift away from pure socialism has resulted in a return to a class structure with a greater potential for conflict.  The state controlled media has been the primary tool for stifling potential conflicts between upper and lower classes, but as time has progressed, the Chinese public has become more aware of media control and new technology has filtered in which has weakened the government’s power to manipulate the news.  Certain “mass events” can no longer be left out of the media, and so the state has been forced to find ways of portraying events in ways that will not ignite the masses.  However, citizens have become wary of propaganda and attempts to frame events within the media in ways that are supposed to mollify the public. Additionally, the public have also been given a platform in social media that is dynamic and difficult for the government to control and can be used by individuals to voice unrest and organize protest.  This has resulted in a massive increase in media criticism from individuals and organizations, but it does not mean that the government has relinquished control or is willing to accept class struggle within its borders.

While a Bloomberg executive noted that, in the Chinese Government’s eyes, “information is perceived as belonging to the state,” it remains to be seen how globalization of the media will affect the state’s ability to stifle outside media sources.  Citizens within the communist nation are already becoming complacent about how the media is manipulated, and as new communication technology becomes more widely available they will find ways of accessing different perspectives.  It is conceivable that the Chinese public may come to trust foreign media sources more than they trust internal media that is certainly more constrained by the government.  I expect there will be an internal battle between the government and tech savvy citizens that will go back and forth as the government develops new ways to block and control media and the citizens find new ways around the firewalls.

The most interesting aspect of China’s media control is how they’ve reacted to increased criticism of the state and its policies by individual citizens on social media.  As King, Pan, and Roberts have noted, “Chinese people are individually free but collectively in chains,” in that the government has learned that allowing citizens to express unrest while suppressing attempts to mobilize offline collective action is an effective means of using new media to control the population.  Much like the current U.S. controversy over the NSA’s spy program, the Chinese Government is able to learn a great deal about its people by monitoring social media.  Thus, complete censorship is not as beneficial as just suppressing what can hurt them the most, offline protests.  This could end up being a major trend in media regimes around the world who are struggling to maintain control in the presence of social media and an activated class of dissatisfied citizens.  These methods could be applied in other autocratic regimes, but it could also serve as a template for powerful media outlets in democratic nations on how to maintain their position atop the media hierarchy.

DQ: Do you think Chinese method of monitoring social media and selectively censoring its use could/will be applied in other nations where there is widespread unrest? Is it a long term solution or will the public become aware of this method and finds ways to circumvent this control?

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Analyze This Class 9

Early information systems, like that found in 18th century Paris, arose as a result of heavy controls on media being exercised by monarchs and other elites.  People’s desire for information, especially that which they were denied access to, resulted in discourse communities that were steeped in gossip and functioned through word of mouth communication and second hand accounts.  Now, modern media consumers are also at the mercy of an elitist media regime, but they have access to tools that allow for a similar style of gossip-based, interpersonal communication that is mediated through computers and allows for the community to be unconstrained by limiting factors like physical distance.  Like 18th century Parisians, much communication today centers around gossip and scandal and is spread by individuals that are not strictly inside the media structure.  Much of the information that gets passed around is not verified until after it has spread, but it makes for an enticing read all the same, and because it comes from our peers rather than from some official source, it has that same special quality as the communications of those in early systems like in Paris and around the world.

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Blog Essay Class 9

As a (soon to be) media professional as well as a media consumer, I am extremely interested in the current media regime transition taking place in American media and around the world.  One of the reasons this interests me as a media professional is that, for some time, I have questioned whether or not the media is fulfilling its responsibility to inform and engage citizens in a manner that promotes strong democratic participation.  As a media consumer, I have felt marginalized by a media environment that is governed by rules and structure that elevate corporations and elites, via ownership and access, to a level of power that I can barely even conceive of.  I see this transition period and the breaking down of traditional media practices as a catalyzing event that could lead to dramatic social and political change within our nation as well as on an international level.  However, having a foot in both of these media realms might be creating in me an unwarranted sense of idealism and optimism about the coming media regime change.  As Williams and Delli Carpini point out, this is not the first time we’ve seen upheaval among media regimes in American society, and past “critical junctures” have not resulted in the kinds of major shifts in how power is distributed that I see the potential for during this moment along the media timeline.

One of the biggest challenges facing potential “prosumers” will be the concentrated ownership that developed when the current regime came to power during the middle of the twentieth century when the “age of broadcast news” began.  When organizations become as powerful as some of those among the current media regime have become, they tend to desperately cling to that power by any means necessary.  Thus, even though social media and Web 2.0 technologies are allowing citizens to become more involved in the process of media production and distribution, it is entirely possible that, in the absence of rules governing new media uses and practices, those from the old regime that still maintain power will find ways of manipulating these new tools in a way that allows them to exercise new powers even though they’ve lost some of their ability to gatekeep and set the media agenda.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that newly empowered citizens will use the new tools in their arsenal to foster a stronger discursive environment, at least in terms of democratic political discussion.  The “blurring of the distinction between ‘news’ and ‘entertainment’” (Williams & Delli Carpini, pg. 296) is one indication that many citizen still lack the desire to become politically aware and active even though they might have the drive to launch themselves into this new media environment.  I see this as the case in America at least, but in other countries where the political circumstances are more overtly dire there seems to be a greater ambition to use new media to change things for the better.  “The Arab Spring and the Internet: Research roundup” noted that in Egypt and Tunisia more than 60% of users discuss their political views online, whereas only 34% of users in 20 other countries surveyed engaged in similar online discourse.  This trend holds true for discussions of community issues as well.

Statistics like these make me wonder if Americans have been too comfortable for too long to make it seem necessary to engage in online discussions that could change the way we approach democracy and social change in this country.  In Arab countries, the citizens see more reasons every day to become activists online and off.  In a study titled “Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First,” researchers found that access to new media and the internet did not result in an increased amount of protests, rather political unrest is what motivated citizens to organize themselves and challenge their leaders to make their countries better.  I wonder if our high rates of access to technology and media keep us placated, entertained, and bathed in centralized media messages to such a degree that we are blind to the flaws within our government and our society.  The things we tweet about and the media that we consume most seem to suggest that we are more concerned with escaping reality than with improving it through meaningful discourse and participation that takes advantage of the multitude of media tools at our disposal.

 

DQ: Can you envision a situation in which Americans would be motivated to use new media to create social or political change in a similar way to how communities in the Arab world have used it?

Joe Crinkley

Joe(dot)Crinkley(at)gmail(dot)com

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